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Ex-president letters in RTI box

india Updated: Jul 03, 2006 01:38 IST
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Chennai resident wants letters to Atal made public

Former President K.R. Narayanan’s controversial letters to the NDA government that reportedly pointed fingers at the state government for the Gujarat riots could finally become public.

A Chennai resident has approached the Central Information Commission against the Centre’s refusal to give him a copy of the letters under the Right to Information Act that the former President wrote to the Vajpayee government on the Gujarat riots. The CIC has held a personal hearing in this case but is yet to decide on the fate of the letters.

A full bench of the five-member commission will now take that decision. It has been discussed once and is expected to figure at the commission’s meeting again over the week.

Narayanan has indicated in the past that the letters contained damning references to the state government’s role in the riots. But these have never been made public. Incidentally, the UPA government has twice rejected directions from the Nanavati Commission inquiring into the riots to place these letters before the commission, citing public interest. Its refusal to provide access to the letters under RTI, thus, was on expected lines.

The government has claimed privilege under the Evidence Act before the CIC to defend its refusal to grant access to the classified correspondence. Sources, however, suggest that the plea might not strictly work before the CIC since this request was made under the information law.

“The RTI law has a specific list of exemptions… This letter does not seem to fall under any of the exemptions,” a source said, pointing that it was the intention of the law that people should be exercise the right to know how and why decisions were taken by the government.

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